3 Tips To Improve The Light In Your Photographs

Prefer to read? You'll find a written tutorial below.

3 Tips For Better Light In Your Photographs

Light is everything when it comes to photography. The word photo actually comes from the Greek word for light, and changing the light in a photograph can dramatically change how that picture appears, and how the viewer feels when they see it. 

You can use light to make a photograph dark and moody or soft and natural. You can use it to just highlight part of the photograph, or to hide unwanted distractions.

But when we pick up our phone or camera to snap a picture of our baby or child at home, how many of us consider the light?

In this tutorial, I'm just going to share three tips that you can use to use light in a simple, natural, flattering way as you take your own pictures at home.

Tip One: Don't Mix The Light In Your Photographs

Inside our homes we have light coming at us from lots of different places; windows, overhead lights, lamps, and you might also have the flash switched on on your camera.

If all of these are switched on, you have a lot of different types of light falling onto your children from a lot of different angles. This usually won't make the most flattering portrait.

You've also got the problem that all of these different lights are probably all slightly different colours; for example, some lightbulbs give off warm light which is more yellow, others give off 'white light' and the daylight coming through the window changes colour through the day.

For a cleaner photograph, I suggest choosing just one way that you're going to light the person in your photograph. So you can switch off all the lights in your house, switch off your flash and just use the window. Or if you'd like to rely on one indoor light, close your blinds or curtains, and switch off all of the other lights.

These photographs, taken a couple of minutes apart, illustrate the difference that making sure you don't mix light can make:

how light can improve your photographs
using only one light to photograph baby

Tip Two: Switch off your flash

When a professional photographer uses artificial light, they usually modify it or change it in some way. They might use something to make it softer or they might not even point it directly at the person they're photographing. And all of that changes the way that the light looks.

The trouble with the built-in flash on our phones and cameras is that they're pointing right at the person you're photographing, and usually produce bright, harsh, unflattering light. This doesn't make for flattering photographs.

So wherever possible I recommend switching off your flash and relying on the light from elsewhere instead.

Tip Three: Put The Light Source Behind You When You're Taking Photographs

Moving the light around your subject can create lots of different effects. Photographers might choose to put it on the side of their subject, above, or even below their subject if they want a certain effect.

But if you just want to take a nice picture of your children you usually can't go wrong if you put the light source behind you and your child or your baby in front of you.

Here are two photographs to illustrate the difference this can make. In this first photograph, the light (in this case the window light) is lighting up behind my daughter and we can't see much of her: 

using window light in photography

In this second photo, the light is behind me and it means the light is falling onto my daughter so we can see her nice and clearly and she's the focus of the picture:

tips to improve the light in your photos

In Summary: 3 Ways To Improve The Light In Your Photographs

In summary there are three things you can do to improve the light when you're taking pictures at home:

  1. Only have one type of light 'switched on.'
  2. Turn off your flash whenever possible.
  3. Put the light source behind you when you're taking photographs.

Want To Learn More About How You Can Improve Your Photographs?

    Book a place on my beginners photography training for parents. 

    In this half-day training, you'll learn:

  • What the different settings on your camera mean and how to use them.
  • The exposure triangle and how light affects your photographs.
  • What makes a good photograph and the rules of composition.
  • How to capture natural photographs of your children without any forced, cheesy grins!

Click here to learn more about the beginners photography training

Clare Murthy

Clare Murthy

I’m a newborn, baby and family photographer working with families from South West London and Surrey. I specialise in timeless, natural photography with no props or unnatural posing. I photograph babies at my studio, and families in beautiful outdoor locations. I'm based on the Surrey / London border, close to Hampton Court.
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